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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  August 20, 2010 12:00pm-1:00pm EDT

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>> welcome to our program, tonight brian williams, the anchorman for nbc news reminded of us what happened, the tragedy of katrina and where we are today. >> there was no one in charge. i saw guns in pant legs. i saw what required martial law. and we can't let this happen ever again to our citizens. nobody's a lesser individual on god's earth and in the united states of america. that has to be a very basic lesson. look at those pictures. when was the last crowd you knew that spontaneously started yelling help in the united states. >> rose: and we continue this evening with our observations about the obama presidency, tonight two former white house chiefs of staff, ken duberstein and john pedestrianesta-- podesta. >> i'm pretty disappointed in the way he has lead or not lead the president. i thought we were going to have a transformational presidency.
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i thought that we were going to have a presidency that reached out and built coalitions. not simply inside the congress but throughout the american public. with business, et cetera, with small business. and with many of the interest groups. and so far it's been very much a pedestrian political presidency and not the soaring transformational presidency that i thought it would be. >> i think there was a dilemma in that what that forced him to do was spend enormous time, enormous capital on capitol hill and that, that sort of neglected the other part of his promise which was to reach out and try to create at least a nonpartisan feel to the presidency. i think he still will be able to do that following this election. but clearly i think he's paid a hit call price. >> rose: brian williams, ken duberstein and john podesta
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next. >> funding for charlie rose was provided by the following: captioning sponsored by rose communications
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from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. here. he is the anchor and managing editor of nbc nightly news. his reporting of katrina earned nbc news a george foster peabody award. he's going back to new orleans next week to cover the fifth anniversary of katrina. nbc also airs a special dateline hour on the catastrophe this sunday. hurricane katrina the first five days. here is a look at that documentary. >> the point of katrina -- >> complete devastation. >> is that because of a natural disaster, one, and because of the government response or lack of it, two, human behavior degraded that day. already thousands of people roam the streets in a mats migration looking for food, water, help. or just a way out. >> if you want to be rescued go to the superdome. all of a sudden now are you telling us go to the bridge. we have resources what are
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we supposed to do. reasons the superdome which was the shell ter of last resort has become the last place any one wants to be. >> this is very bad because we don't have no air. the food is limited. we're suffering. we're suffering here. >> sir, you can give me a quick assessment. >> of what? >> the conditions in the superdome. >> no comment. >> i remember seeing wild eyes that day. desperation, the inability to feed yourself or your family. really the common sense switch gets clicked off. and we don't become recognizable to ourselves or our families any more. >> get us out of this. get us out of here. we want to get out of here. >> just imagine how pleased hi am to have brian williams back at this table. thank you for coming, sir. >> it is an honor always.
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>> rose: this was your finest hour. >> bless you for saying that, thank you. >> rose: secondly, it is what great reporting is about. it is a commitment to the story that never ends. there is no mission accomplished-- accomplished here for mr. williams and his crewmen and women at nbc news. >> never. we opened a bureau down there. and here's what i tell everybody. if you had been in that dome with me, i was the last person in before they closed the corrugated steel doors. and there were thousands of us in there. and i was the first person they let out. and i had some kind of storm survivor guilt after that because most stayed in for six days. but i had to go do our broadcast. if you had been in there with me, you would have that bit in your mouth too. you would have gone back, i don't know how many trips have we made, 27 times we've brought the broadcast back there. i am now a part of new orleans and it is a part of me. because we met people, charlie, who didn't get out
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of that dome alive. they didn't survive the shell ter of last resort set up for them in new orleans. as i always say, they were failed by adults. they were failed by their government. closest thing i've seen is something like haiti. where relief is coming in. we tell ourselves it's different, we're in the united states. this was no different from the third world disasters i cover in my other life. rrz just the back of the story a moment with respect for paul harvey, the rest of the story, you were in the dome because president of nbc news saw it coming. >> we, yeah, we both did. >> rose: and said let's get on the story. so mr. williams who was about to go on his vacation said to the family, not now. >> at home i am the famous character clark w griswold as portrayed by chevy chase. who literally putting the luggage on the roof rack of the car. and we were going to block island, rhode island.
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>> rose: and so you said to your colleagues at nbc news if, in fact, we're going down there, i want to go all the way and let's get in the dome. >> yes, i was disturbed upon arrival that it was a homeland security event. that people were getting aggressively pated down. first time the classism light bulb went off over my head is with poor folks. white and black but poor folks. the folks we saw in new orleanss were about the last 100,000 people who will exit most american cities. lesson we didn't quite learn back then but we'll learn it some day. and it was a, it wasn't a gentle welcoming that they received there. they were greeted by a patdown for contraband. cigarette lighters were taken away from people. and then they were given an mre. what does every mre contain, a pack of matches. that kind of mentality. but they were-- they were decent people, they were in a good mood. they were willing to ride it out. >> rose: and that's what keeps you on the story the
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people of new orleans. >> absolutely. >> rose: so where are we today five years later in the story of new orleans and its comeback. >> the times pick union superb web site published a great opinion poll this week showing public attitudes way up in terms of hope for the future. it is a transformed city. 100,000 people give or take didn't come back. lower 9th ward would have no structures were it not for the charitable works of brad pitt and others. the musicians village, harry connick and others. so charity is visible in new orleans. sadly, the lower ninth ward housed the grit. the texture, the piano players and busboys and waitresses and lounge singers. some of those people didn't come back. too many people are in houston. too many people are in tuscaloosa and baton rouge.
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a fact about louisiana, 250,000 people speak french or some version of it at home. you really can pass somebody on the street in new orleans and hear some version of your high school french. i don't have to tell you the richness of that city. it is an american treasure. and then on top of that what did louisiana ever do wrong to anybody to have these twin tragedies in five years. it's more than they can take, but if any city was going to be knocked down that hard, charlie, it's got to be new orleans because of their spirit. look what they have done to come back. >> rose: their spirit and their soul. take a look at this. this is nbc cameraman tony zambato describes what he saw while covering hurricane katrina. >> i got to tell you, i thought i've seen it all. i've never seen anything in my life like this. >> tony who has been a cameraman for us for a long
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time returned from the convention center and we knew he had seen something horrible. >> he was asked to recount his experience on live tv. >> these people are very desperate. these are the families who listen to the authorities that were told to go to the convention center. there's nothing offered to them, no water, no ice, nothing for the last four days. >> i have not eaten. we have not had anything to drink. >> the sanitation was unbelievable. the stench in there. >> nobody tried to do nothing for this man's mama. >> dead people around the walls of the convention center laying in the middle
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of the street where they died, right there in their wheelchair. >> national guard did not do nothing. >> i tell you, i couldn't take it. >> all tony did was bring his credibility and a life's work and his honest faith and his great ability as a cameraman. >> breathe, man, live. >> and he stood there at the edge of his emotions. >> don't give up, don't give up. >> live, man! >> and he was bearing witness to what he had seen. >> oh, jesus. >> it will be all right. >> and what he will take to his grave. >> rose: who failed those people. >> shame on a lot of people. that's our country.
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those are our brothers and sisters. they had their dignity one moment, and then it was taken away from them. charlie, a number of people failed. and my anger, it's hard to look at that clip. i've seen it 500 times. my anger in part is that i just had come back from iraq. you know, i go off to these battlefields all the time. i've seen what the third infant ree can do. i've seen what the first cav can do with a blackhawk. they can drop a pallet of water on something the size of a dime. you need mres. you need tents. if you are in one of our two conflicts, i can get it to you in minutes. but something-- something didn't rank. something, they weren't deserving enough, i guess, in front of that convention center. i'll never understand it. but i know some of the adults we elected and some of the adults they appointed failed the citizens of this country.
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i have never done anything like this that i have asked anyone to look at in 26, 27 years in television. i sat in my office yesterday, wrote personal notes to send out with dvds to newspaper writers, tv critics. i'm actually asking people to watch this sunday night to get sad and get angry. it's not entourage and it's not "mad men" it will make you sad and angry. but it should. because we can't forget this. we love good gauzey memories in this country. we rehabilitate a lot of people and we get kindly about the past. it was happening to richard nixon just as he died. we should never let people off the hook for this. because then we'll see it happen again. >> rose: we shouldn't let whom off the hook. >> i'll let that judgement fall to other people, to start naming names and a chain of command, we all know who was in charge. we were all there. we-- you know what happened. >> rose: but was it a question of someone saying
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let's get the army and someone else saying no, that's not what we should do? or did it not occur to people? >> we would need a white board to go through it but it would start with a basic understanding of this metropolitan area. the fact that people don't have minivans loaded with gas ready to come out. the fact that this blew up into a cat 5. the fact that the buses never came. the contraflow where they reverse the highways, that worked. but a lot of things didn't work and of course they didn't count the great quote we thought the levee was hold. we didn't count on the levees giving way. what a comedy of errors, it would be funny if it weren't so tragic. 1900 people, 1900 lives. 1900 souls are gone, about 80% of them died in the state of louisiana. and i can't explain a single death. i actually heard someone say to me on the street of new orleans, be careful because there's a body floating this way. to hear that in your country, takes your breath away.
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>> rose: and would it happen again if the levees with would break again? >> well, i suppose so. there's a bunch of good people who have been worrying about the wetlands that are now in vogue to talk about because thanks to this lovely 90 days worth of oil sitting out in the gulf that nobody can find. now it's okay to talk about the wetlands. people have been screaming and yell being how much of the delta we've been losing. but you know what, we've got to be awfully sure. this is why we have an army corps of engineers. and it's okay to demand this. it's okay to hold people to account for the dollar figures, president bush used that nighttime speech in jackson square. only lights i saw in the city that night were those used to illuminate the president. >> rose: take a look. another clip. help, help, help, help, help. help, help, help. help, help, help, help. help, help, help, help, help, help, help, help, help,
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help. help, help, help. >> i couldn't believe that people were starving and going without water in the united states for lack of an air drop. there was absolutely nothing that would lead you to believe that this was the united states. this didn't feel like we were home. >> rose: so what are the lessons? >> the lissons are, those people weren't named rose or williams. they weren't members of our family but they're members of our family. they're americans and we can never treat our fellow citizens like that. the lesson is respond. move, fast. we have a number of people who are very good at that in this country.
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there was no there, there. i have one of the great passports in the world. in the visa business i have the big three, afghanistan, iran and iraq, always impresses the guys at customs. there are two stamps i don't have. my first trip into baghdad, sneaking in at night with the third infant ree and my first trip after the quake in to haiti, living on the tarmac. i look at new orleans that week the same way. there is no evidence i was there. there is no one in charge. i saw guns in pant legs. i saw what required martial law. and we can't let this happen ever again to our citizens. nobody's a lesser individual on god's earth and in the united states of america. that has to be a very basic lesson. look at those pictures. when was the last crowd you knew that spontaneously started yelling "help" in the united states. and remember on the other side of the screen all that week we saw government officials telling us we have assets and we sources on the
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way. this is part of our plan. our plan is playing out. >> rose: and what do they say today when they know beter? >> boy, i don't know. people are sitting in retirement. they're lecturing at colleges and universities. they're writing memoirs like the former governor blanco of louisiana. fema director brown is hosting a denver radio sho. mayor nagen was re-elected after this. there is a heck of a postscript. and i imagine president bush may address this in his upcoming book about big decisions. but certainly this has to be a lot of people have to be held to account. >> rose: has the bush administration satisfactory answered the questions for you who have covered this story as much as anyone with more attention and more visits and more, as you are reflecting now w this fifth anniversary. >> well, i don't know. and they don't owe the answers to me. they own the answers to-- . >> rose: you don't represent yourself, you represent the viewers who watch your show. >> we had a sporty moment on air force one, the first intervow with the president after this and i said mr. president, if this had
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happened in nantucket or the hamptons or chicago and he cut me off and he said you can call me anything you want but don't call me a racist. and the interview kind of went on from there. >> rose: and you think it was racism that caused a lack of response? lack of urge exee and a lack-- urgency and a lack of -- >> let's put it by a kinder and more benign term. and maybe it was a misunderstanding of the needs urban america, the inner city and in this case one of the great cities on the entire planet, would have when the levees broke and when the power went off and when all human services ceased to function. i would love people to watch this and make up their own judgement. >> rose: watch this hour because you want them to know... . >> we move on very quickly these days. to quote dor thee people come and go so quickly around here. and it's a fast era. and we've got other crises.
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but we should remember how it made us feel, how awful it was. what a towering disservice it was to our fellow citizens. the way the government response to a natural disaster was mishandled in the city of new orleans. >> rose: and people died because of it. >> people died because of it. >> rose: take me now to the b.p. oil spill. what similarities do you see there? >> slow from the starting blocks. i think most people would agree. i just today said to somebody, if more fancy folks from the east vacationed in grand isle, louisiana, which you really have to want to get to. you fly to new orleans, you rent a car and you drive three hours south until you can't drive any more. you'll see some fabulous beaches, great food, great people. but if that was nantucket or the vineyard or the hamptons,
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i really think the response would be different. i may be wrong and people can judge-- . >> rose: but then that raises also the question of whether both katrina and here in covering the spill has media done everything that it should have? >> boy, we've tried. we've tried. >> rose: with respect to katina,. >> i request only speak for my neck of the woods but we sure have tried. you know, we've opened up a bureau in venice, louisiana. we've hired a boat captain to get us around. we have covered every aspect of this spill. absolutely heartbreaking and here's another thing people need to remember. short shrimping season what do you do afterwards. you often get part-time work on the rigs. you fish at the base of the rigs. there's oil. there's the living we make in the water. they've always had a kind of sim bee otic relationship. that is-- symbiotic relationship. that's why when you ban this deepwater drilling, blanket ban, there's so much anger from down there. but it seems to me, everyone
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i've talked to has a very basic formula. if you want to get it a mile down, be sure you can stop it a mile down next time. >> rose: and that was the mistake they made. thad allen was here last night on nbc shows this morning. and basically he said we know where 75% of the oil went. we can account for it. we can calibrate it but we don't know where 25% of it is. do you accept that? do your people accept that? that you can account for where 25%-- 75% of the oil went. it's only 25% you don't know what happened to? >> i worry that when we start talking about numbers like that, all i know is this. >> rose: if you are reporting the story every night, that is why i aming can you. >> i think we're going to get bogged down in that you take a quart of this stuff in a smallest you wary and will you kill generations of plant and animal life. i put a glove under the grass in the water and taken
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my fingers and it just comes off every leaf of that tall grass on every island estuary it is the most heartbreaking site to see the wildlife, four or five weeks from now we're going to have this migratory air path start up, hunting season begins. all these birds that are going to take a little bit in their dna. a little bit of that oil, a little bit of carcinogen. lord knows what is going to happen for generations of animal. >> rose: so we don't appreciate the full damage and will not for generations witness that's correct. >> rose: is there more that needs to be done today in the gulf? has the response been because of this administration understanding the previous administration's difficulties than better. >> political matter i'll leave to others. there's always more to do. we threaten the end of a way of life. the rumor got out you could smell the oil in the city of new orleans. i'm not with the chamber of commerce. but i've smelled this oil
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and i've been in new orleans. new orleans smells the same as it always did. kind of a mixture of gumbo, garlic, sweaty people dancing. >> rose: but it seems to me you are saying too as to the president as he swam in the gulf and the governor of mississippi saying it's safe to come to our beaches. and we need it you to come to our beaches because that is our revenue source. >> yeah, i would go down there. i would buy me a good dinner at a seafood restaurant, bring my family and put a towel out and sit out on the beach, absolutely. i'm back with pie wife for six days in a few days from now. >> rose: thank you for coming. >> my pleasure. >> rose: this is your finest hour and an example of where, i think, you guys and other networks and other new agencies covered a story like it ought to be covered and go back an remind us. you know, and it's an interesting time. tomorrow the foreign minister of pakistan is coming here. >> that's right. you know what he is going to say. help us. help us. we have got a flood over there. we need your help. only 50,000 americans have texted aid. 34 million americans texted it to haiti. something we should remember.
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and secretary clinton is trying to rectify that by setting up an independent fund that won't fund the pakistani government but fund the people. >> rose: brian williams, nbc news, what a pleasure to have them here. back in a moment. stay with us. >> rose: president barack obama defeated senator mccain by wide margins but after 20 months in office his approval ratings fell to the low 40s and his problems don't seem to be going away. the economy continues to struggle, unemployment is hovering nearly 10%. the president defended his record attack on republicans this week on appearances around the country. but democrats face an uphill bat nell this fall's mid-term elections. to understand where the president is and what mistakes he's making, and how can overcome whatever perceptions there are, we bring together two former white house chiefs of staff. john podesta served in the clinton white house from 1998 until 2001. he is now the president of the center for american
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progress. ken duberstein served as ronald reagan's chief of staff from 1988 to 1989. he is chairman & ceo of the duberstein group. i am pleased to have both of them back on this program. so where do you think he is, john? >> well, look, i think he's gotten, first of all he inherited an enormous financial crisis. and economic crisis when he came into office. and he set about, i think, trying to lay the foundation for long-term economic success and the success of his presidency. and on that score i would say that he's doing, you know, he's done substantially well, better than any president in recent history. i think that the passing of the recovery act that saved or created a couple million jobs. passing financial regulatory reform, health-care reform, those are foundational elements but he's paid a price in doing. he used up a lot of capital and i think his polling numbers reflect the fact that he's been engaged in
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that enterprise of passing that big legislation. if the economy recovers as i think will, if jobs start growing, like president reagan, like president clinton, i think that portends well for him to have a long and successful presidency. >> rose: ken? >> i think we have learned that he does much better at campaigning than he does at governing. you know, when you came paper you try to annihilate euro upon ept and de that quite well. but when you govern, you almost have to make love to your opponent and you have to say no to some of your closest allies. and i think on that basis he has fallen down somewhat. you know, john has a very interesting formulation that he was a legislative president or obama was a legislative president and accomplished a lot of stuff in the first 18 months. the question is for the american people, has it been
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too much? is it too much government? is it too many deficits. is it too many promises? is it too many partisan attacks. what obama is suffering from is that he got a lot of things done. it wasn't a do-nothing wrong. it was probably a do too much congress. but the american people haven't seen any results yet. so health care has not, the polling on health care hasn't really moved. financial reform hasn't gotten them much. cap and trade is increasingly unpopular. so you go down the litany of subjects. stimulus that he passed first on. people have not seen the core relation with job creation. and therefore you get these polling data as in the ap poll out yesterday, which says that almost two-thirds of the american people think that the economy has gotten
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worse or certainly no better during the 18 months of barack obama. that is a fundamental problem that he has to address. >> you've said that you voted for him in the 2008 election. would you vote for him again? >> when i made that decision in 2008 i was very comfortable with it. i am pretty disappointed in the way he has lead or not lead as a president. i thought we were going to have a transformational presidency. i thought that we were going to have a presidency that reached out and built coalitions. not simply inside the congress but throughout the american public with business, et cetera, with small business. and with many of the interest groups. and so far it's been very much a pedestrian political presidency and not the soaring transformational presidency that i thought would be. >> what do you think of that, john? >> well, you know, i think,
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i want to come to that delimb-- dilemma of the point that ken made. but i think that if you look at again the record of what he has been able to accomplish, it's very, very substantial. he argues and i believe that it's foundational. the economy wasn't doing well before this great recession. median income had actually gone down between 2001 and 2007. so he had an enormous undertaking that he had to put before the american people. he's been able to do that legislatively i think in the items that i just mentioned. and there are more to add to that including college loans and k through 12 education reform et cetera. the problem is it kept him clinging i think to working with the congress which is obviously highly unpopular. and it meant that he had to deal in an institution that itself was i think poisoned
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over the past many years bipartisanship. and he had to rely almost exclusively on democrats to pass those legislative items. if they produce the results that i think he argues they will produce and i believe will come about a more, a stronger foundational economies that's going to produce jobs and income growth for the middle class, he'll look like a genius. but in the interim, i think he's been forced to see much more partisan than he-- than particularly than he ran on in the campaign. and he's been bound to that sort of psychology that is on the hill in part, i think, because the republicans adopted a strategy of almost complete rejection from the day he moved into office. it may work politically for him in 2010 but i think you know, what the american people want is something different. they want ideas. they don't have them coming forward from the republican leaders.
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and i think that you know, it's-- there's no question, though, that obama and his popularity has paid a price and i think because of that, you know, that sense that he could be transformational with respect to the political situation in washington has been lost. >> what do we know -- >> it's interesting. i think bill clinton also had a good legislative record as ron all reagan did but they both did it by reaching out it wasn't just the first year. it was the next several years when they had some reverses. and what happened was they started engaging on both sides of the aisle. it for the president to lead in a bipartisan fashion. and usually the opposition at least some will come around and be supportive. i think from almost day one on the stimulus, this was a genuflect to the democratic
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barrons and barroness on the hill who waited eight years for a bunch of spending programs that they couldn't get past george bush and put a word called stimulus on them and pass they will. and i don't think the proper courting that bill clinton did so well and ronald reagan did so magnificently is something that obama has followed up on. he has decided... . >> rose: go ahead, john what. >> i just have remind ken that that clinton got no republican votes for his economic plan but that economic plan created enormous success for the country and politically for the president. it wasn't until after tha that... but after his political circumstances changes, he used up a lot of capital. he was able to reach out. and president reagan's case, he had a few democratic votes at the beginning. but it wasn't until after he took some hard hits in the 82 election where he was,
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where his popularity went down that he was able to reach out to tip o'neill and find common ground on social security, later in his presidency. >> and that's why john, assuming that the republicans pick up a sizable number of seats and i'm not talking about control, it may be the best thing possible for barack obama, if he learns the lesson of bill clinton and ronald reagan and is willing to govern and not just campaign on one side of the aisle. that's the point i'm trying to make. >> but i suspected. >> i suspect that if you asked the president today, n, he would say i reached out and they were not willing to go along. they adopted when i said during the campaign yes, i can. they simply say to anything i recommend, no you can't. so his argument has always been he wants to bridge the gap. he wants bipartisanship. he want kos lab raise. he wants conciliation but he can't find it. now you are arguing that he never offered it or what? >> i'm saying is the way you
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go about it is you incorporate some of their proposals. you sit down and you draft legislation together. most of the legislation that has come in this year, this 18 months, has been drafted in the democratic house by nancy pelosi and a committee dhars-- chairs with very little republican input. it has been walked back some when they realize where the votes were. that contrasts with what clinton did and certainly what ronald reagan did which was to bring the boll weevil democrat, the moderate democrats in early in the process and say okay, we're writing a budget. i need your ideas. we are adoing taxes. what will you support in we will incorporate some of your proposals. that's how you build it. not simply by socializing someplace in the east wing of the white house. >> john s that the way you see it? >> not really, i think that there was a rejectionist front on capitol hill. and i think that, look, i
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think obama clearly tried that with health care. they courted, you know, chuck grassley o limb mea snowe for a long, long time. they mr. perfectly prepared to incorporate their ideas. they held the house back from moving forward in order to try to get something going. but the republican leadership in the senate really, i think, said our political success is based on obama's fileure-- failure. and we're just going to shut that down. and he took, you know, he could have walked away. but instead i think he said well, if that's the way it's going to be. we need to get this done. we're going to get it done with democratic votes. >> rose: did he try to do too much? >> no, i-- you know, i think that if you look at the things that he worked on that he did accomplish, they were fundamentally necessary to build the long-term success in the future economy that was going to be won that-- one that was going to, again, have a sound financial system that could lead to investment and
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innovation in the private sector. and you know, so i admire the fact that he was able to get as much done. and i, as i said, i think there was a dilemma in that what if that forced him to do was spend enormous time, enormous capitol on capitol hill and that, that sort of neglected the other part of his promise which was to reach out and try to create at least a nonpartisan feel to the presidency. i think he still will be able to do that following this election. but clearly i think he's paid a political price. but i think he said i got to get this done for the american people, you know. his heart has been in trying to restore job growth and wage growth for the middle class. jobs have not come back. wages are up a little bit. if jobs don't come back he'll be in a world of hurt. if they do i think he'll be viewed as having laid a sound foundation for future success. >> one of the reasons he was
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elected i believe is to restore faith in the institution of governing. you know, america by and large has lost faith in all of our institutions. perhaps with the exception of the military. i think if you look right now the faith in government has declined, not increased in value. that is not gone up, it's gone down. i think people are saying, okay, he may have picked the wrong priorities. he play have tried to do too much. congress may have been too left and too big. there are ways to go about legislating where you don't try to get 100% of what you want. he got almost 100% of what he wanted. there are ways to incorporate the other side of the oil that really would have made a difference rather than trashing whether it is the business community or the republicans in congress. the president has to take that leadership. has to be transformational.
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has to bring people together. has to understand that we are fundamentally a nation of incrementalists. we like our progress in bite size pieces and not in big gulps. and what he tried to do was to get everybody to get big gulps. that's very hard to do. >> but both of you, assess leadership skills, the ability to explain what you want to do. the ability to persuade people to be on your side even though they may be reluctant to go there. the ability to show the american people that you for the lack of a better word, you know, feel their pain. that you understand how they look at the world. that that is not an emotion unknown to you, john? how do you assess the abilities on these. >> you're talking about our two ex-bosses here, charlie.
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>> i know. >> and look. >> i'm asking the wrong people, i know. >> i think that president obama is a master of laying out a clear case and making the argument to the american people, i think that the one thing where i would agree with ken is that the ability, i think, to reach out and create a broader coalition, to reach out more, particularly to the business community and others, to not view your job as just trying to create a sort of sense of bipartisanship on capitol hill which in my own view is a kind of, particularly with the current republican leadership a sort of fools errand but to try to do it nationally, i think probably he should have and they should have spent more time. and i think when people engage with him, he is quite
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engaging. and they get a sense of the fact that he is, you know, at his heart wants to see as i said the seeds of success for the private sector be planted and bloom. and so he needs i think to do more of that. and my suspicion is that he will be doing more of that. >> rose: in what way? >> well, i think that, you know, it's his job is not to just talk to senators and congressmen. it's to do what he's doing today. and he's been doing the last couple of days, to sit around the kitchen table with ode citizens, to hear their concerns, to talk the programs that he's trying to implement on their behalf through with them. to listen, to see if there are ideas, left, right and center that can be incorporate mood his governing style. i think the worst place to try to find that common ground right now is on capitol hill. but there's a lot of
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opportunity, i think, to have that conversation with the public more broadly and to find, you know, people who would make common ground with him to try to get the country to succeed again. >> and by pointing that out by definition you seem to be saying he has not been doing that enough? >> well, i think, you know, he's been doing that lately. but i think, you know, i think he could have done more of that in the last couple of years, yeah. >> what has surprised me is his inability to motivate the american people. you know, i always thought during the campaign here was the next great communicator. and somehow there is a disconnect. somehow the american people look askew when he talks. when he finally gave that ofal office address on the oil spill he had nothing to say and yet he used the oval office, the majesty of the oval office. he has had a hard time breaking through and communicating and relating
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to the american people. the american people want him talking about jobs and he wanted to talk about health care. the american people wanted to hear more about the economy, and he went off on a taj ent talking about this or about that. so his ability to relate to joe and joehana six pack and more importantly for them to relate to what he wantednd his priorities has been something which has really missed. i have been surprised by that. because i thought he would be much better at it. i happen to think that if the election this coming november brings the numbers on capitol hill much closer together, it may force him to spend more time as john suggests with the american people whether it is at the kitchen table or around small groups talking about the issues that mean the most to them. and not getting into some of
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the peripheral stuff that somehow this white house has not been disciplined enough to avoid. >> rose: but do you think he should have said what he said about the mosque here in new york? >> i think what he said friday night on religious freedom and what america stands for was absolutely appropriate. but if i were on the white house staff and i believed john, if he had been on the white house staff would have cautioned the president nod to add the next sentence, or to go the next day and take it back by starting to get into it as a local issue. the presidency should be on the high plane of talking about principless of america and of all the american people. he was absolutely right to talk about that. but he should have said but the placement or the exact location of a mosque is a local decision by new york city and new york state and that's where it should
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reside. rather than confronting the situation, adding to everything else, especially in light of the polling numbers that he has subsequently seen. and then starting to walk back. it almost looks like the john kerry he was for it before he was against it. and i think that, again, hurts barack obama's credibility where he needs it so desperately on jobs and the economy. >> rose: john? >> well, i think he gave a tough and principlesed statement. he knew it was unpopular. i applaud him for doing it. and i think it was important that he do it. i think much like president george w. bush who went out of his way to say this country is not at war with islam. it's at war with al qaeda. we need to set pretty sharp markers down. and i think that the president did that. i think he did it in the deepest and richest traditions of our country and its support for religious freedom. and i think that sends a
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powerful message around the globe that we do stand by our principles thes. we are a country that, that relies on religious freedom and holds it up. and you know, so i think it was an important thing to do. i think it was a necessary thing to do. and it was an unpopular thing to do. so i applaud him for doing it. >> he should have made the distinction that george bush did between a faith and at the same time some people who in a sense want to kidnap a faith, al qaeda. >> you know, well, i think he was trying to do that by saying that particularly the people who are involved in this mosque, the imam who leads that effort was somebody who has been embraced by republicans and democrats. who condi rice sent on the road on behalf of the state department as a goodwill ambassador. >> and obama is doing again. >> explaining the tra tradition of america.
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>> and obama is doing again this is exactly the kind of voice we want to here. a void that repute yates al qaeda that is against terrorism. and that is a strong voice for the muslim community and the muslim american community. >> is there anything about him that works against being a great leader? john? >>. >> i think that what obama likes to do is he's very determined and skillful in getting information into the discussion to the table. he likes a broad group of advisors to give him information. that he makes from the decisions and then he moves on. i think that's what leadership is all about. what i think in this age of particularly when you have a media machine out there against you every day, what that does is sometimes it seems like the decisions
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take some time to come about or take some gestation. and you know, sort of in the modern media environment, i suppose, he needs to understand that, adjust for it but i think ultimately he does make good decisions. he's done it on foreign policy. just yesterday finally the last combat brigade left iraq, a promise he made to the american people. he's got the new star treaty with russia. he makes good decisions. and i think the bottom line of all this is substance counts and i think that was what really, i think, meant success for president clinton, president reagan and it will mean success for president obama. >> the reason i ask the question is you know some people suggest he's too of the law professor and too little the sort of c.e.o. and leader. >> you know, it's interesting. i think he is and maybe to pick up john's point in his article in "the new york
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times", too much of a legislator and not as much as an executive. that he tries to acquiesce and get everybody together and on board rather than saying this is the principles, this is what i want, and let's go do it and fight for it. there may be a little bit too much give rather than the give-and-take. but the mentality is one of much more accommodation than it is the forceful this is what i want, this is the direction we're going to go in. and so you know, i also conclude that he may not be 100% comfortable in his own skin. i thought he was during the campaign. and i think now he goes back and forth a little bit trying to take care of too
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many people whose who he's been friendly with for years, people on capitol hill. and whether it is to me again you flecting too much to nancy pelosi or to some of his senate colleagues, the universal is bigger than capitol hill. and i think he has to broaden himself. in order to be effective. that's why i'm hopeful that what comes out of this november election is going to give him an opportunity to recalibrate and restart and get it right. >> in terms of a guy comfortable in his own skin, i can't think of anybody who's more than that barack obama. but i think, i'll give you that, ken. i think that the one thing that narrower congressional majorities will produce or is a desire to utilize more of his executive authority. i think you can count on that. >> i sometimes -- >> but i'm talking about executive leadership, not executive authority, john.
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>> well, reagan was good at both and i think obama could be good at both. >> right. >> rose: what do you think of our body politic today. >> i think if you look at the body politic, that is the voters, no, i think they usually get it right. sometimes it takes them awhile to get it right but they're very, you know, i have tremendous faith in the american democracy and the american voters to get things right, you know, they'll miss it in an election or two but they'll get it right over the long-term. and i think what you have is a body that really does want to i think, govern in the center but what's i think broken right now if you will, is what's go on on capitol hill. and i think in my own view, particularly in the senate where you have a sort of a parliamentary system, where every vote is a vote of no confidence, but a supermajority requirement, the only other place in america i can think of that looks like that is california and it's not doing so good. that you have supermajority requirements and you get
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this sense of deep, deep partisanship and a breakdown of comedy and you know, i worked in the senate in the 1970s it wasn't like that then. and hopefully some sense of comedy can be restored to that. but you know, i don't know. >> last word to you, ken. >> in my feeling is the american people eventually as john said, get it right. i think the american people right now have lost faith in the institution of governing. it is not just the congress. it is the judiciary and it's the executive branch. some how there is a total disconnect. i think cable tv and the blogs have contributed to it. everything is instantaneous and everything is analysis. and not necessarily based on fact. i think tv coming to the house and senate were in some ways beautiful and in other ways destructive of
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the process of governing, the give-and-take which makes good legislation and good public policy. i think the fact that congress spends tuesdays to thursdays here and the families aren't here, is destructive to the process. because they don't get to know each other as people. you know, it's not the way it was in its 60s when i worked on capitol hill. it wasn't like this in the 80s when i worked in the white house for president reagan. swron said it wasn't like that in the '70s. people used to get along and didn't question each other's motives. what happens now is that if you accept 50% of what you want, you have sold out and you are the butt of a negative campaign ad. somehow people have to understand politics is the art of compromise. and you got to give everybody the benefit of the doubt. somehow we have to find a way to restore that faith in
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our system of government to all the american people saying we're getting a fair shake. and not worrying about you know, the washington e-- washingtonees, i'm talking about well, it a reduction in the deficit except it's not scored that way. when people start talking about they have no faith in any statistic issued by the federal government, there is some fundamental breakdown that has to be addressed. it hasn't been so far. >> ken duberstein, john podesta, thank you very much for joining us. tomorrow night, a conversation with the foreign minister of pakistan, about the floods in his country. join us
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